Jim Gordon: Nothing. No matches on prints, DNA, dental. Clothing is custom, no labels. Nothing in his pockets but knives and lint. No name... no other alias.
Nothing Is Scarier than someone you know nothing about. He has nothing to identify him, nothing that even states that he is real. If this person simply disappears, you are terrified because you don't know if he is watching. Sometimes he is established as a myth, a ghost story to scare people. This person lacks not only a past, but also a present and a future. He just is, and you don't know why.
The Spook is someone whose identity is a paradox, they exist but don't exist at the same time. No one can prove that he is there except by showing someone the warm body, if you even have it. If a name is given it is likely to be Shrouded in Myth; you can't be certain of anything you hear about them but you don't want to underestimate them all the same. Or they may use an obvious pseudonym like Mr. Smith.
In some cases, this may overlap with a Legacy Character: the myth is more important than the person.
All There in the Manual may have extra information that is confirmed by Word of God, but that doesn't count: this is about how this character is perceived by others. What matters is how the characters in the story behave in regard to the stranger. If the people in the story know all about the character, then it does not qualify as The Spook even if the audience knows nothing.
This kind of character is often seen as either an Enigmatic Minion, or the guy the villains (or even the heroes) bring in to do the job right... even if they don't know what they're dealing with. Also frequently The Nondescript.
The reason The Spook is such a mysterious character is that the story treats the lack of information of the guy as a mystery, i.e attention is drawn to it and in universe characters point them out and become curious. If this doesn't happen, he's probably just a Bit Character that isn't intended to be memorable.
Compare The Faceless, but The Faceless is only important based around the eventual reveal (whether or not they actually have a face). The Spook will usually remain an enigma even if caught and defeated. Also compare The Men in Black, who are often mooks with this characteristic, and The Cowl, when a hero tries to be this to the villains. The Chessmaster can sometimes be a Spook and combined with this trope makes them all the scarier. Finally, compare/contrast Unperson, where someone else does this to a person as a form of punishment. See also Outside-Context Problem, which appears out of nowhere, and Diabolus ex Nihilo, a villain without any backstory.
Be warned that "spook" is also a mostly obsolete slur against black people, so use with caution. "Spook" is also used in a philosophical sense (mainly in certain branches of anarchism and nihilism) to refer to abstract social constructs.
- All members of ACROSS in Excel Saga must maintain this secrecy to ignorant citizens, which is why they can only get temp jobs.
- Much of the manga is a comical Deconstruction of the trope, noting how difficult it is actually to live without any kind of identifications, steady job or social security. The protagonists end up getting mistaken for illegal immigrants several times over.
- L, Mello and Near from Death Note. Justified, as the titular notebook can kill anyone whose name is written in it. Thus, the only people who could challenge the Death Note's user would be those with entirely unknown names.
- Light Yagami initially becomes a spook when he gets his Death Note from Ryuk—a mysterious killer with the ability to kill off anyone in the world, location be damned, so long as he knows the real name of his victim. He exacts the power of the Death Note enough that the world notices the sequential killings and dubs the culprit "Kira." That would've been the end of it, had Light not fallen for a trap set out by L by writing down the name "Lind L. Taylor," a man being used as a decoy proxy for the real L. Taking the bait allows L to start hunting him down relentlessly, opening the biggest can of worms he'll ever know.
- Johann tries to become one in Monster by destroying all traces of his past. Even without him doing that, he essentially is one already due to the circumstances of his birth and upbringing. Finding out how he became the way he is is one of the plot's driving forces.
- Hazama is this in BlazBlue: Alter Memory. Between attempts to help Noel, Makoto (Hazama's own subordinate, by the by) has been trying to gather information that could link him to the Imperator, and found absolutely jack about him in the NOL database. Whatever justification exists cements to Makoto that Hazama is not to be trusted, and she arranges for a pickup with Sector Seven to get Noel out of Kagutsuchi. It's not a spoiler to say this doesn't work out.
- The Octopus in The Spirit. In the entire run of the series, neither the heroes, the villains, nor anyone else ever saw his face or learned who he was. In his first appearance, he ran through fire to avoid revealing his identity.
- Mr. Nobody in Spider-Girl. Even when he's apprehended by the police, it's found that he literally has no fingerprints and that what was thought to be a full facial mask is apparently his actual face.
- The Boys: The unnamed Vought-American exec is this. The Homelander, a Kryptonian-class superhuman, is more than a little scared of this apparently ordinary human; even half-jokingly theorizing that the executive might be some sort of quintessential corporate lifeform.
- Cobra Commander in IDW's G.I. Joe comics. We never learn his name, facial appearance, or backstory only receiving vague suggestions. It's implied that he may actually be "Chimera", a villain the Joes encountered years ago, having survived his battle with them and taken a new identity but even this is conjecture. And later it's revealed he's not even a singular person, just the most recent holder of the title. There's been hundreds of Cobra Commanders throughout human history, each more inscrutable than the last. After the Commander we started with is shot dead, he's replaced by a nameless man called "Krake" in under a month.
- Spider-Man villain Façade, a professional thief/merc who wields a powerful suit of biomechanical armor. He's most well-known for killing off Lance Bannon, one of Spider-Man's longtime allies and to this day we've never learned his identity or backstory (the evidence given narrowed it to about two possible suspects but we're never told which is correct). It's become an enduring mystery that's haunted Spidey ever since they first fought. In-Universe, the only people who know are Façade himself and Norman Osborn, who probably isn't interested in telling.
- This one is rather notable in that he initially wasn't planned to be the Spook, but became one after the writer's plans were derailed by The Clone Saga.
- In V for Vendetta, Finch discusses this trope with Susan. V had killed all Larkhill personnel that tortured him. The interesting part is that the only proof the goverment has of that story is the documents V had left for them to find. What if this is just a smokescreen? What if this was done not as a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, but to erase all proof of V's past? What if this is only the beginning of something greater? How can they hope to stop him?
- Diabolik started out as this before some of his past started being discovered. In the Alternate Continuity DK, his counterpart, known as the Shadow of the Night, is this, to the point that he doesn't even have a name (Shadow of the Night is how some people call the urban legend based on him).
- The Joker has a revolving door of backstories, which makes it unknown who he is, where he came from, and what made him the way he is. Because of this, some writers depict him as a literal and/or figurative avatar of madness and chaos.
- Count Dracula in American Vampire is portrayed this way. Rather than identified as Vlad the Impaler (the real-life inspiration for the character), his origins are unknown and is theorized to have been a pig-farmer rather than the infamous nobleman. Having said that, he is generally agreed to have been Romanian due to being the creator of the Carpathian bloodline, which became the most numerous of all vampire strains in the world.
- As The Games We Play progresses, Jaune begins to realize that he knows terrifyingly, worryingly little about who Ozpin really is. Even gaining a True Sight ability doesn't help.
- The first Big Bad of the Pony POV Series Loneliness is this. Even several season after her demise, no one, not even Trixie (who's mind she was dwelling in) knows what she really was or where she came from, or even if she was real. Even her name and gender are just conjecture, as Twilight names her Loneliness and as she's a shapeshifter, the only evidence of a gender at all is her Shapeshifter Default Form is female and it's not clear if any of the forms she assumes are her real one, if she even has one.
- A Knight's Tale as Inquisitor provides a very justified, main protagonist example. Due to the fact that she comes from a completely different world, there is absolutely no prior knowledge or information on Arturia prior to the explosion at the Conclave where she is the Sole Survivor of the cataclysmic event that killed everyone else present, meaning that there is absolutely NO way to get any information anywhere on her in Thedas other than anything she does in present time. This is something that greatly worries and disturbs BOTH her allies and enemies.
- In Vale's Underground, Cinder Fall is changed into this because "Cinder" is an alias in this version. No one actually knows her real name and she took many precautions to make sure this trope was in effect for her. Salem is even more mysterious and all we know is that she has a past with Cinder. Subverted in Chapter 14 for the readers when we learn a lot more about them. However, no one else (currently) knows it.
- The Joker was portrayed this way in The Dark Knight. He had no backstory, and was only "The Joker", nothing more elaborate but nothing to diminish the personality. The premise of the movie was that the heroes have to deal with someone they had no damn clue about. They could not anticipate what he was going to do, and that is why he was so effective. In Batman Begins, the League of Shadows nearly put Gotham into a riot because of poisonous gas, while the Joker nearly did the same thing just from the legend he established for himself.
- Incidentally, this is also what makes Batman so scary to the bad guys. He's essentially the Joker, but wearing a mask and acting against the villains. The difference, that Sal Maroni makes clear, is that Batman is The Fettered. Once they figure out his "one rule" Batman's status as this is diminished. The Joker has absolutely no rules.
- Keyser Söze of The Usual Suspects was something similar to this. The nature of the movie made his shadow-ness even more obscure and vague. But even with the things confirmed by the police interrogators, Söze was someone who has never had a confirmed sighting, regarded as a myth, has multiple versions of his backstory and you don't know what is fact or fiction about him.
- This is what is often overlooked in the Terminator movies because of the Time Travel and evil robot sci-fi, but the original movie was primarily a person being hunted by someone she knew nothing about, even the reason why she was being hunted.
- When you join the Men in Black, you become one of these people.
From now on you'll have no identifying marks of any kind. You'll not stand out in any way. Your entire image is crafted to leave no lasting memory with anyone you encounter.
- Jason Bourne is an example of the "made anonymous by support from powerful intelligence agency" variety.
- Chauncey Gardiner in Being There, who grew up as a gardener for a rich old man who had secluded himself and Chance from the outside world. After his master dies, and he has to go out in the world, he becomes a mysterious figure without a past.
- The Serial Killer from Se7en has removed all traces of his identity and goes by the alias John Doe, because he believes that the message he's trying to send through his killings is important, not himself.
- In Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, the bad guys refer to Remo as "The Faceless Wonder" because they can find absolutely no information on him at all other than a picture and the fact that he's interfering with their nefarious scheme.
- The whoever-it-is who keeps showing up and giving cryptic advice to Bruce Willis' character in 12 Monkeys.
- Cobb from Following. The police have no record of his existence, and he tricks his fall guy into dressing and looking just like him. The final shot of the film is Cobb stepping into a bustling street and completely disappearing.
- Harry thinks Chad is this in Burn After Reading.
- Ernst Stavro Blofeld is this is the James Bond movies. He is one of the few Bond villains to be given no backstory whatsoever, either from his own lips or from a government dossier. This is not the case in the novels the films were based on, however.
- Roat, the villain of Wait Until Dark. Roat, incidentally, is not his real name.
- The villain of The Hitcher is called a ghost because there is nothing that identifies him.
- The Operative from Serenity
Dr Mathias: I see no listing of name or rank.The Operative: I have neither. Like this facility, I don't exist.
- Star Trek Into Darkness portrays Section 31 as this. All of their doings are very hush-hush and under the table, while some of its operatives, like John Harrison/Khan, are given false identities to hide their true nature.
- In No Country for Old Men, practically nothing is known about the relentless assassin, Anton Chigurh. The only thing we know is his name, maybe.
Accountant: Are you going to shoot me?Anton: That depends. Do you see me?
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier has the titular antagonist. Natasha literally calls him a "ghost," and notes that most of the intelligence community doesn't believe he exists. Nobody knew anything about him or who really he was until Steve saw his face and realized that he was Bucky, who didn't recognize him. From there, he was able to deduce how Bucky ended up as the Winter Soldier.
- Josef in Creep. The Police are Useless to Aaron because he can't give any concrete information on Josef's name, age, location, or any other identifying details.
- The Caller in Phone Booth is a complete mystery. He doesn't identify himself or reveal anything about his past (beyond how no, his parents didn't abuse him, he had a "very" happy childhood, and no he wasn't in Vietnam, he's younger than that), and even his face isn't seen until the end.
- Captain Nemo from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (his chosen alias literally means "no one" in Latin).
- Vying with Nemo for the earliest use of the trope is Professor Sunday, from The Man Who Was Thursday, as described in the page quote.
- Mister Teatime is this way in Hogfather.
- This is what makes the title character from The Day of the Jackal a perfect assassin as he's not listed in the extensive files of the French security service, and a major part of the novel involves getting a lead of who he might be, so they can start to track him down. At one point the British authorities think they've nailed him down as a man called Charles Calthrop, but he's revealed to be a completely unrelated businessman whose identity was likely stolen by the Jackal for one of his assignments. Even his country of origin is never confirmed — while referred to as an Englishman, the Jackal successfully impersonates several other nationalities.
- The Demon Headmaster is the unassuming head of a small comprehensive school who just happens to have mind-control powers and an obsession with bringing the world into perfect, emotionless order. We know absolutely nothing about how he got these abilities, where he comes from, or what his real name is - everyone just calls him "the Headmaster". Even in "Takes Over", when his amnesiac clone's main goal is simply to learn what his name is, we still don't learn it ourselves.
- Julian from The Boy Next Door. He simply appears in the seemingly abandoned house next door to Randy and she knows very little about him.
- Neverwhere has the Ambiguously Human assassins Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar.
- In Roger Zelazny's My Name Is Legion, no records exist anywhere of the protagonist's original identity.
- Stephen King has given us many examples over the years, because he finds that unnatural horrors work best when they remain unexplained. Why's there a sentient finger growing out of this guy's bathroom sink? Why is an industrial laundry machine eating people? What is this carnivorous black blob floating in the water, and how is it intelligent enough to psychologically torture its prey? Whenever King's characters have these sorts of questions, his response tends to be "Doesn't matter. Your problem now."
- American Gods features an amorphous collective of Spooks in the form of the Spookshow, created by people's belief in The Men in Black. Because they're Anthropomorphic Personifications of Conspiracy Theories and not actual government agents, they have a vague idea at best of what their purpose is, which ends up making them all the more dangerous. There's also the nameless man in the charcoal suit, whose true identity is never revealed because everyone forgets who he is.
- The Big Bad in C. S. Lewis's The Silver Chair (the fourth Narnia book published, and the sixth in terms of In-Universe chronology) is a Diabolus ex Nihilo with no backstory. All we really know is that she used her Voluntary Shapeshifting and Mind Manipulation abilities to seize power Beneath the Earth and now seeks to expand into Narnia, and that she could be somehow connected to the White Witch from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
- In Tuck Everlasting, the Big Bad is a genteel, polite person known only as "the man in the yellow suit". He does provide some backstory for his quest — as a child, his parents sheltered a family that told tales of the mother's former husband and his own kin, who never aged a day — and has clear goals in selling the magical spring water that generates said immorality (apparently choosing to ignore the horrific implications of what will happen when the secret gets out), but other than that, he's a blank: no name, no past, no relatives, no presence...nothing. Author Natalie Babbitt encouraged this characterization in an interview, and even explained that she deliberately avoided giving him a red or black suit for fear of people interpreting the man as Louis Cypher or The Grim Reaper; she elaborated that she put him in yellow to create a natural cadence for the repeated phrase "the man in the yellow suit".
- Burn Notice invokes this several times. One of Michael's plans was based around infiltrating a family of gun dealers by playing off of one of the brothers. By skillfully stealing their supplies, he then simply dropped off the face of the Earth. He explained that nothing scares you more than a spook, someone you know nothing about. He could have been FBI, a rival group, the Mafia; the point was they didn't know who he was and if he was going to return. The group was so spooked, they left the city.
- Chuck Finley is everyone, and no one. He's simply Chuck Finley.
- Razer from The Cape is this.
- Chess is also this, but only In-Universe, and for the first episode.
- Doctor Who:
- The Doctor was this for much of the original series' run, as very little about his origins or his true identity were ever dwelt upon. On several occasions he's taken steps to remove himself from the historic record. The "Cartmel Masterplan" was supposed to restore this aspect by gradually Retconning what was already revealed about the Doctor to be a lie and that he was actually a more powerful figure than he appears, but it was derailed by the show's cancellation.
- "Midnight": The Midnight Creature. No one, not even the Doctor, knows what it is, only that it is able to survive on a planet with a super-deadly atmosphere, possess a human being, and mimic others to the point of stealing their voices. Ever since the episode's airing, there have been theories about this entity.
- The Silence. Once you look away from them, you forget that they even exist. They often use this ability to plant commands in people's subconscious.
- Fargo: Lorne Malvo of season 1. We're given essentially zero information about him. "Lorne Malvo" probably isn't even his real name. The most we ever learn is that he claims to have been in Alaska at one point. That's it.
- Papa Lazarou on The League of Gentlemen. He's implied not to even be human.
- Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- Matt's initial conflict with Wilson Fisk is complicated by the fact that Fisk is a spook, due to having carefully covered up every trace of his past.
- We don't know anything about James Wesley's past outside of his being Fisk's best friend and right hand.
- Karen Page to some extent. While bits and pieces of her past prior to coming to New York City are hinted at (like having a brother who died in a car accident; implying that James Wesley isn't the first person she shot; Ellison overlooked her sketchy past when hiring her for the Bulletin, etc.), and Deborah Ann Woll has made hinting remarks in interviews, nothing solid has been established about her past. This is likely to change in season 3, as Woll has made remarks in interviews prior to the release of The Punishernote about talking with season 3 showrunner Erik Oleson about what she wants to see if Karen's past gets explored.
- The Punisher:
- Frank Castle considers Micro to be a complete spook at first, and it isn't until he gets Karen Page to dig up some information that he starts to warm up to working with the man.
- Lampshaded in "Kandahar", where Billy Russo comments about how the fearless leader he and Frank work for never even gave his name, although apparently others call him "Agent Orange". Of course, Billy is working with Agent Orange a.k.a. William "Bill" Rawlins III.
- Person of Interest
- The Villain of the Week in the episode "Last Call", who calls a 911 dispatcher and forces her to erase their records under the threat of harming a child he's kidnapped, all while projecting a persona of amiable professionalism. Fans dubbed him "The Voice" because we never see him (though we do when he returns in the final season).
- Harold Finch is this In-Universe, due to the elaborate steps he's taken to protect his identity or even his existence (even though he's a major character, we never discover his true name). On finally meeting face-to-face with Special Counsel, the latter describes Finch as being like a black hole, exerting an unseen and powerful influence.
- This is how Moriarty is treated in Sherlock, though he gets to meet our heroes face-to-face in the last episode. Twice.
- Spooks, aptly enough. Although we, the audience, know quite a bit about the MI-5 officers, the regular people they interact with are regularly fed fake identities, fake credentials, and fake beliefs.
- The Greek of The Wire. By the end of the series, we only know one thing about him: he's not really Greek.
- Pick pretty much any member of the shadow government on The X-Files (particularly Deep Throat and X). The Cigarette Smoking Man is the only one that we ever learn anything about and what we know is vague and occasionally contradictory.
- LLF had spent half a decade carving out a niche in Monterrey by introducing new foreign talent to Mexico, then one night in 2005 a woman whom no one knew anything about appeared with the goal of destroying them. It was only later that more information would surface on Tsunami.
- Midsummer 2010, PGWA was visited by a masked woman calling herself Hecate who claimed to be from Mexico. An inquiry was sent to LLF at the start of 2011, as by that point it had booked talent from all over Mexico but none of them had heard of her either.
- Los Abusadores Internacional in Valkyrie Women's Pro. No one knows who they are or where they came from, just that they're devoted to La Rosa Negra and even though there aren't very many of them, they have connections to people] whom only slightly more is known about. Subverted though in that they can call on intimidating individuals but are not themselves.
- Thanks to the Arcane Fate, the Sidereals of Exalted turn this Up to Eleven. Not only are they completely unknown to the vast majority of Creation's inhabitants, but within a week or two of meeting them, you will forget them. And any records of their existence will be lost, accidentally destroyed, vanish mysteriously, or otherwise be rendered useless. A Sidereal could murder your parents right in front of you, and in a month you wouldn't be able to pick them out of a lineup or even remember the incident clearly—were they even murdered at all, or was it a freak accident of some kind?
- In Warhammer 40,000, the Dark Angels Space Marines are served by the indigenous population of The Rock, the Watchers In The Dark. They are covered head to toe in robes, and have never let anyone see what's underneath. Ever. Games Workshop's official models for them don't have heads, just hollow hoods. Librarians can't probe them because they resist all psychic powers and forms of Warp contact. Are they aliens? Undead spirits of the Fallen forced to serve penance? The latter is unlikely, considering that people of Caliban have encounters with them before the Fallen are even conceived of, but otherwise... they're the only ones with answers, and they literally ain't talking.
- The GURPS Advantage "Zeroed", created for GURPS Cyberpunk and popular in conspiracy games, makes a PC the Spook.
- The Occultation ability in Mage: The Awakening opposes any attempt to uncover a mage's identity: magical inquiries are resisted and mundane records mysteriously vanish. The Blank Badges Legacy refine this into the ability to use their Occultation score as Status, so people see them as authoritative and respectable but have no idea why or who they are.
- The G-Man from the Half-Life series. All that is known about "him" is that he's working for some unknown "benefactor", handles Gordon's (and presumably others') "contracts" with said benefactors, has ties to the Black Mesa incident and the Resonance Cascade, is opposed by the Vortigaunts, and is clearly not human.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- The eponymous mask from The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is an odd variation. You know the gist of its background (standard Sealed Evil in a Can stuff) but the sheer amount of Mind Screw going on around it makes it unknowable. The Happy Mask Salesman, while apparently a good guy, is a straighter example. All you really learn about him is that he's on your side and he would really want his mask back. Other than that, it's only implications that never lead to anything concrete.
- Nothing is revealed about the Ghost Ship from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. It's a ship that always shows up by certain islands based on the phase of the moon, and can only be entered when holding a certain chart (not having the chart will just cause it to vanish as Link approaches). The ship itself contains a number of undead enemies in its interior, and once it is completed, it is never seen again.
- In Halo, operatives from the Office of Naval Intelligence get this trope name as a nickname for the exact reasons mentioned here. Reflecting this, The Men in Black-esque organization itself is more commonly referred to as ONI, a wordplay on a certain youkai type. Additionally, for the majority of the Human-Covenant War, the Master Chief himself and his fellow Spartans were this to most people on both sides.
- Yume Nikki: There's no explanation for anything whatsoever, no Back Story, no dialogue, nothing. Madotsuki, the main (and only) character is a Hikikomori in a flat. She keeps a very trippy dream diary. The building she lives in is apparently only as wide as her flat. Who is she? What is she? How did she come to be there? Where does she get those ideas and dreams from? Is one of Madotsuki's dream characters based on a piano teacher? Is another based on a friend? Is said friend dead? Is another based on a horribly mutilated and/or bullied girl? Is the highly sexual Kyuukyuu-kun based on rape or something? She's basically Mesme without the Psychic Powers. It is safe to say that this singular character has spawned Epileptic Forests on her own. The ending of the game itself leaves all questions unanswered, leaving things open to interpretation: Madotsuki commits suicide by jumping off her balcony by using stairs that were never there. Your guess is as good as ours.
- Even the creator of the game, KIKIYAMA, is this. Do the ideas for Yume Nikki come from alchohol, drugs, a very twisted imagination or a completely normal person who just wanted to make a scary game? There are a few emails that indicate she is female, however.
- The Pyro from Team Fortress 2 has no backstory, name, face, or set gender. The fact that s/he just loves burning things is all we know for sure. Even after learning in "Meet the Pyro" that The Pyro thinks that everything s/he does is give candy and happiness to other people (which s/he imagines as cupids and other such cute creatures), we still don't know anything about their Back Story. Or anything else. The only reason s/he's on the team in the first place is because s/he's insane enough to do what s/he's asked (that is, mercilessly kill the other team); Pyro's own teammates are scared of him/her/it.
The Heavy: I fear no man...but that thing...it scares me.The Scout: I ain't talkin' about that freak, all right? He's not here, is she? How do I get this (microphone-thump)ing thing off?!The Spy: One shudders to imagine what inhuman thoughts lie behind that mask...what dreams of chronic and sustained cruelty?
- Albatross and Steven Heck in Alpha Protocol. The dossiers you build on them are about 90% conjecture.
- Albatross is the head of an entire organisation of spooks: G22 oppose Halbech and have dirt on nearly everyone, but anything beyond that is pure guesswork. Unless the player gives them away, the Big Bad (and thus Alpha Protocol itself) doesn't know they even exist.
- Steven Heck, on the other hand, is on a class of his own due to not really being tied to any organization at all; he claims he's a CIA agent, but further investigation shows no proper agenda or ties with them. In fact, he'll be loyal to you and do as you ask so long as you don't piss him off because he doesn't have any plans or orders you could screw up. Some theorize he is simply a complete lunatic who started playing Wannabe Secret Agent one day and became scarily good at it.
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Dual Destinies, the villain of the final case turns out to be a Master of Disguise known only as the phantom, able to perfectly impersonate anyone... to the point where all traces of their original identity are completely gone. We never learn their real name or see their real face: they're always shown wearing a mask of someone else. They feel no emotions except fear of being caught. Their Villainous Breakdown has them freaking out about their "real face" not even existing as they pull off masks of nearly every other character in the game. They collapse into the shadows after removing the final one, so no-one ever finds out what they really look like.
- Calisto Yew/Shih-na from Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth counts too, as we never find out her real name or backstory, and the two identities we see her in over the course of the game are fake.
- Mike Toreno in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Even his name is suspect, since he was working undercover when CJ was introduced to him.
- The U.L. Paper Contact from Grand Theft Auto IV is an even better example: not only does he never give out his name but when Niko asks if he's worried that Niko will get caught and lead the authorities to him, the Contact calmly explains that they're inside a building with hundreds of people matching his description and that by the time Niko rats him out to the cops, they will find an empty office "leased to a man who died in the final years of Vietnam" and a non existent phone number.
- Zero from Kirby's Dream Land 3 is given no foreshadowing, no motive, no origin, and no clear goal, but his fight and death sequence is quite possibly the most terrifying boss fight in the entire Kirby franchise.
- Flemeth from Dragon Age. With the revelations (or lack thereof) in Witch Hunt and Dragon Age II, we really know nothing definitive about her at all. She goes mostly by Flemeth but she also has many names, she looks human but this is cast into great doubt by Morrigan, Fenris, and Anders. Her past is Shrouded in Myth, with no clear way to know if it's true. And on top of all of this, her powers and precognition are at a level that aren't seen anywhere else in the series. Her motivations are also completely unknown, but hints are dropped that it is on a scale outside of any other in the franchise. Her identity is revealed in Dragon Age: Inquisition: She's a human vessel for the Elven Top God Mythal.
- The Devil Z from Tokyo Xtreme Racer is an unknown rival that only appears when the player beats every last racer in the game. Everything about him/her/it is shrouded in mystery to the point where he/she/it's beginning cutscene heavily implies that he/she/it might be a demon or a ghost. The rivals index only labels him/her as ???? and gives a description about his/her/it's 280 Z's performance tune-up. Info on the driver? Absolutely none.
- The Serial Killer seen and mentioned throughout the backstory of the Five Nights at Freddy's series - it's not known who he is (barring some Wild Mass Guessing), where he came from, why he killed kids, why he used Freddy Fazbear's Pizza in particular or why he decided to return to the shutdown pizzaria to dismantle the animatronics. He's never even seen in person outside of a purple Atari-esque sprite in various minigames (until the third game, but by then he's a mummified corpse with few identifiable features left).
- The Joker in Batman: Arkham Origins. He comes completely out of nowhere and after finding his DNA at the site of a particularly brutal murder, Batman puts it through the National Criminal Database to find out who he is, and comes up completely blank. No name, no true origin outside of a flashback that may or may not be accurate, and no real motives. Batman and Alfred are both completely taken aback by this.
- Q from Street Fighter III is a mysterious figure wearing a trenchcoat, fedora and iron mask. His true name, origin, and motivation for fighting are all unknown. It's not even clear if he's a human being, since he tends to move in a very robotic manner. All that is known about him is that the CIA is after him, and that he appears in photos from around the world, and at similar times, implying that Q might just be one of many.
- Alvaro Vasquez in Driver 2 is stated to have no known information, not even a driver's license. The captain giving orders to Tanner and Jones claims "Maybe he don't even exist. Maybe he's just a name."
- Zer0 from Borderlands 2. What's his real name? What is he doing on Pandora? What does he look like? Is he even human, or is he an alien or a robot? Nobody really knows. Not even Jack's subordinates really know. And if the devs have any say in it, nobody ever will.
- Darkest Dungeon: In a way, the Collector qualifies. Every other beast, abomination and opponent you find in the Estate has an explanation of some sort, either being the Ancestor's fault in one way or the other, or just having arrived in the middle of the misery and Eldritch happenings, wanting a piece of either that or the supposedly defenseless Hamlet. Even the Shambler, tentacular horror from beyond, is documented well enough that its summoning rituals are well known. Not the Collector, however. The Hamlet? They haven't heard of it at all. The missions given by the Caretaker? None bring it up. The Ancestor? He has nothing on it. The man who meticulously documented every travesty going on and had plenty to write and comment on from beyond the grave has nothing to say but an unnerved description whenever this head-seeking horror shows up. Its modus operandi, its attacks and all the rest don't link it to any other group in the game either. All you know is that it came from somewhere to seek heads to add to its endless collection, and that those of your heroes will do just fine. Other than collecting the fallen, the Collector has no apparent stake in the Darkest Estate's fate or events in the least, and it's unknown if there even is a connection between That Which Came from the Portal and itself.
- In a game where most of the enemies are animal-based and go for a "natural" angle, the Waterwraith of Pikmin 2 stands out as something unusual. It is oddly humanoid, ghost-like, the only boss in the entire game that actively chases the player characters long before reaching its arena, and it is somehow completely invincible unless Purple Pikmin are tossed on it. And Purple Pikmin have not demonstrated any especially odd quirks aside from being heavier and stronger than the other Pikmin types. Nothing is revealed about it and Olimar suspects that the entire experience might have been some kind of hallucination.
- The Plasm Wraith of Pikmin 3 shares many traits of the Waterwraith, in addition to having a bizarre obsession with capturing Olimar. It's a large humanoid of some sort of gold plasm that can generate fire, crystal, electricity, and even water from it. And the "other enemies" in its area are made of the same material as it, hinting that it's some powerful shape-shifter that can effectively act as many different beings at once.
- Sylux from Metroid Prime: Hunters. While the other 5 hunters in the game are given a little backstory and reasons to hunt the Ultimate Power, all we know about it is that it hates the Galactic Federation, and Samus by proxy.
- Gandrayda, the Shapeshifting Bounty Hunter from Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. According to her scan, her backstory, including her homeworld and exact age, are unknown to the Galactic Federation. They don't even know anything definite about her species aside from its similarities to the inhabitants of Jovia XII.
- Fallout: New Vegas: Legate Lanius is a walking mystery. Throughout the game, you hear multiple accounts of his past, none of which match up with each other, and you never learn if any of them are true. Many characters will note that they have no idea who he is, including Joshua Graham. Hints are dropped that hes not even a singular person; nobody has ever seen his face or figured out his true origins, so he may simply be a Legacy Character made up by Caesar to act as figurehead. In an interesting Deconstruction, its noted that his Spook status is both his strength and his weakness; his near-mythic image has been carefully crafted over the years and is pretty much all that holds his army together. To defeat him, you need only convince him that he has a high chance of failing a task, at which point hell bow out to save face rather risk his Spook reputation.
- We may know a great deal about the Slender Man and what he does, but even then there is no way to know his true nature/origin without being taken or worse, especially as he is said to change depending on the mind encountering him. He is everywhere and nowhere. By believing in him you open the door. Attempts to capture or study him almost always go hideously wrong. Marble Hornets gives a possible origin story for him but it's left highly ambiguous if it's true or not. note His eyes are closed, his mouth is open, and his arms are outstretched.
- SCP Foundation: In one of his possible origins, SCP-106 wasn't always a horribly-decayed old man, but his origins don't explain nearly as much as some would wish. It's known he was a soldier in one of WWI's bloodier fronts, but no one knew where he came from, why he got transferred to that particular front, and he left no paper trail of any kind that could link him to anything. No one saw him send, or receive any letters from anyone, either. Some of the soldiers thought Corporal Lawrence was less of a man, and more of a curse on their unit, even if he seemed entirely human, only slightly off about it. It's unknown if he was simply another nameless body in the trenches that found his fate in a dark, gore-encrusted tar pit or if there was always something abnormal to him, but there are no records of him before those days, and only one picture of him at all, and it was from the trenches themselves.
- Combustion Man from Avatar: The Last Airbender. The heroes don't know his name, never heard him speak (the only noises he makes are grunts which aren't even credited by a voice actor), and know nothing about his past. In their first encounter with him, they only escaped by the skin of their teeth. Zuko apparently knows more about him (name, past, etc.) but his portrayal is that of a relentless shadow.
- From the Sequel Series, The Legend of Korra, absolutely nothing is known about about the Big Bad, Amon. He gave a backstory but whether it's true or not is up for debate. We don't know what he looks like, what his real name is (if Amon isn't his real name), we don't know what exactly he does to take away peoples' bending or how he even has the ability, we don't know if he's being honest about his intentions or if he has ulterior motives, and we don't know how he's able to resist bloodbending. That is, until the Book One season finale.
- The DCAU Joker also has elements of this, especially in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. We actually see what he was like before he fell in the vat of chemicals: a nameless, voiceless, perpetually smirking mob hitman who might just be creepier than the Monster Clown he turned into. He sparks a good chunk of the plot by killing Andrea Beaumont's father.
- The White Shadow from The Boondocks. He's an unnamed government agent who is only ever seen by Huey Freeman (a paranoid conspiracy theorist), who gave him the nickname of "White Shadow" in the first place. The White Shadow talks to Huey, but as he's supposed to be a secret agent after all, we know nothing about his background. Huey even wonders whether the Shadow is actually a real person, or just a paranoid delusion.
- Samurai Jack is plagued by a shadowy samurai on horseback (aka "the Omen") throughout Season 5. There's no explanation as to who or what it is, only that it shows up whenever Jack draws near the Despair Event Horizon, and Jack can only flee in terror at the sight.
- The Teen Titans cartoon version of Slade ends up as this. Unlike his comics incarnation, we never learn his backstory or see his face under the mask. Instead of a hitman, he's an aloof mastermind figure whose only clear goals seem to be finding an apprentice and crushing the Titans' hopes.
Raven: Face it. Red-X could be anyone. Anyone smart enough to find the suit, and dumb enough to take it for a joy ride.
- The show also has the Ensemble Dark Horse Red-X. Originally, the Red-X persona was used by Robin to go undercover in a (failed) bid to find out Slade's real identity, but the high-tech, highly weaponized suit was later stolen from Titan's Tower by an unknown thief who uses it to commit high-end burglaries. Throughout the show, the team encounters him all of twice and they never find out who he is, or how he was able to steal the suit. Word of God is mum on subject, but the most common theory (though by no-means the only) is that he is really Jason Todd.
- The Somerton Man. His corpse was found in 1948 on Somerton beach in Adelaide, Australia. More than 60 years later, his identity or the circumstances that led to his death are still unknown.
- Dan "D. B." Cooper is the only known name of an unidentified man who hijacked a Boeing 727 between Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington in 1971.
- If The Disaster Artist is to be believed, nobody actually knows where the hell Tommy Wiseau came from, where he got that accent, and why he had enough money to fund The Room on his own, not to mention squander it in dumb decisions. Even his age remains a mystery to all but the author and Tommy himself. xkcd jokingly proposed that he's actually the aforementioned D. B. Cooper.
- Whoever pulled off the Max Headroom broadcast signal intrusion probably counts.
- Plenty of unidentified serial killers, most famously Jack the Ripper and the Zodiac Killer. The Other Wiki has more information than you require.
- Banksy used to be an example of this trope, but he may have been identified...
- Several musical artists have cultivated this image. Captain Murphy revealed himself as an alter ego of Steven "Flying Lotus" Ellison, but Doctor Steel, Rucka Rucka Ali, and Leon Redbone remain mysterious (although regarding the latter, we do know that his birth name was Dickran Gobalian).
- The Man in the Iron Mask.
- "Deep Throat" was the name given to the informant who provided information to Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein during the Watergate scandal. His identity was a secret known only to them that they swore they would not reveal until his death, and for years, news agencies and other organizations could only propose theories as to who he was and what his motivation was. It wasn't until 2005 that Deep Throat was revealed to be FBI Associate Director Mark Felt, who came forward on his own. He was always the administration's main suspect, so it's less of a revelation than it looks on the surface.